2020 Mazda3 Problems Guide

Our data shows that forward collision avoidance, brake, and steering related issues are the top problems for this model year of the Mazda3

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

The 2020 Mazda Mazda3 is one of the more popular cars on the road today. Newer models are hailed as being “for those who never stop refining.” Yet, customers are struggling to deal with all kinds of problems including faulty forward collision avoidance systems and failing service brakes.

Click on other model year to view more problems:  2019   2021   2022   2023   

Mazda3: Problems Summary

More than 62% of the complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about the 2020 Mazda Mazda3 are cited as being forward collision avoidance (FCA) problems. Several are listed as being FCA and brake issues. There is even one listed as being a “service brakes, hydraulic” problem, but this, too, involves the automatic brake system.

And if you start digging, you will find via complaints that this system is linked to other systems too. This is the case in a complaint said to be about the electrical system. It states that the “Automatic safety notification censoring system for the brakes engaged when a stop was not applicable or necessary causing the car to brake on its own in traffic. Luckily no one else was on the road.”

Other components and systems that feature in NHTSA complaints include steering (sometimes included with lane departure), engine, fuel/propulsion system, structure, and visibility/wiper.

There are also two recalls that affect the 2020 Mazda Mazda3. One relates to the braking system and the other to forward collision avoidance. So, it seems that owners have every right to complain about FCA and the brakes.

Recalls Affecting the 2020 Mazda3

The FCA recall dated December 19, 2019, affects 35,390 Model Year (MY) 2019-2020 Mazda3 vehicles. It reveals that the Smart Brake System (SBS) on these vehicles isn’t very smart. The issue is that it “can falsely detect an obstacle while driving, activating the automatic emergency braking (AEB) system and suddenly stopping the vehicle.” If any vehicle stops suddenly and unexpectedly, this increases the risk of a crash.

The second recall dated June 12, 2020, affects 24,037 MY 2020 Mazda3 and CX-30 vehicles. This one warns that the front brake caliper mounting bolts may not have been tightened properly during assembly. The risk is that the calipers might loosen. If this happens it “can reduce braking performance or interfere with wheel rotation, affecting vehicle handling.” Either scenario increases the risk of a crash.

Forward Collision-Avoidance

Today’s safety systems are designed to protect and keep people from harm. So, when a safety feature malfunctions, it’s an immediate cause for alarm. Despite the recall, many owners with problems find that their cars aren’t included in the recall. Additionally, dealers often decide there’s no problem. Fortunately, some do find issues that provide an answer to these malfunctions.

Examples of Problem Cars Not Included in the Recall

An owner from Colorado states that the car’s automatic emergency brake was deploying without warning while driving, and when there were no other cars close by. “I took it to the dealership to have it fixed, and on the drive home, it did it again. There is a recall for similar makes and models for this year, but my car has not been included.”

Another driver was letting the car slow down for a red light. There were “No cars in front of me. Suddenly the car braked and the brake warning came on. I was pretty far back from the light. I took the car to the dealer and he said the occurrence did not show on the computer. There was a recall for this problem but not for my car. If someone had been behind me or if this happens on a busy street, I would be rear-ended. There have been other computer problems with this car but they never happen when the dealer checks for them.”

Examples of Dealers Unable to Diagnose or Fix FCA Problems

An owner went to the dealership after the forward collision camera had activated for no reason three times. Twice it came close to stopping in “rush-hour speed traffic.” Once, it sounded an alarm and came to a full stop in heavy traffic. “It occurs on bright hot days going straight (with) no turns, no oncoming traffic, no traffic around, and no obstacles or dips. This can cause the car to stop immediately and cause an accident. App detects problems with (the) system but (the) dealer cannot find (a) problem and blames (the) camera or GPS or satellite radio (that is) factory equipped.”

Another owner was on the Queensboro Bridge headed from Queens, NY into Manhattan in partly cloudy, dry weather. “The traffic was bumper to bumper and moving anywhere from 0 mph to maybe 5 mph. I was in the middle of the bridge driving approximately 5 mph and my 2020 Mazda3 beeped (collision warning) and applied brakes. I was almost rear-ended and my two passengers were jolted forward.” The compliant states that he “maintained a safe following distance the entire time. I believe a van on my left triggered my car’s actions as it passed. I was in no danger of getting into an accident although I was quite shaken up since this is the first time my car applied its brakes.

“Previously, the car from time to time has alerted (me) of a collision, always under 40 mph. A previous inspection of my vehicle (after I reported collision warning activation) revealed everything was working properly.”

Example of a Dealer Who Identified the Cause of FCA Problems

In September 2023, an owner from Massachusetts was driving on a residential street when the automatic emergency braking system was activated. The car stopped abruptly even though there was nothing in the front of the car to activate the system. “There were no cars in the on-coming lane and no cars in the lane beside my car. When the car stopped, the brake warning appeared on the windshield and a warning tone sounded. It was in the early evening and it was raining. Fortunately, there were no cars behind me so there were no injuries.

“I took the car to the Mazda dealership and upon inspection they noted that the radar system associated with the automatic emergency braking system was malfunctioning and not correctly calculating the distance between the car and other objects. They are in the process of replacing the radar. If this had happened on the highway at higher speeds or if there had been a car behind me I would have been injured.”


One of the first things a driver learns to do is steer a car carefully and correctly. When a car starts to steer itself, it can be a terrifying experience.

Mazda3 Takes Over the Steering

An owner from Illinois tells how a new 2020 Mazda3 Premium with only 1,177 miles on the clock “suddenly took complete control of steering my car.” It was a clear day and there was light traffic on the three-lane highway. The driver had been traveling at 65-70 mph and moved one lane to my left. That’s when” the car took over the steering, pulling my car out of the left lane nearly missing the center cement divider, then darting back across my lane and halfway into the lane to my right, then dashing back to the cement median.”

The driver couldn’t slow the car down, and it was moving fast. “The pattern the car moved in was very precise as if the car knew not to hit the median and go further into the lane to my right.” It eventually stopped and the driver was able to exit the highway. The Mazda wasn’t damaged, but “I hit my head twice on the driver’s side door. I did not require medical assistance.”

Safety System Gets Dangerous

An owner from New York describes what happened when the lane departure warning activated and attempted to correct during a gentle curve. “The location had shifted lanes due to construction, so clear lines were visible but not the actual lane to follow, which is a frequent occurrence in New York City. The system came close to steering me into the adjacent lane occupied by another vehicle, forcing me to fight the correction. There was a lane departure warning on the dash and I believe the blind spot indicator was on (i.e. the adjacent vehicle was detected in some capacity). I considered this especially dangerous as this zone also had very tight lanes so my physical correction could have also caused an accident.”

The complaint goes on to say that there was no malfunction of the physical components. Furthermore, no dealer or service center has been able to reproduce the issue. “However, I have discussed (this) with other drivers of the same line (2020-23 Mazdas) who have had similar experiences leading to a decision to disable these ‘safety’ features. Mazda provides a reasonable description of scenarios where lane departure and assistance will disable itself due to poor conditions or low confidence. I would recommend at a minimum requiring the system to detect and potentially differentiate lane widths. City driving sometimes has extremely tight lanes (for example, the inner roadway of the Williamsburg Bridge where two adjacent lanes are perhaps 8-9 ft with less than 2 ft on either side to the wall). In these scenarios, any steering correction at all is more dangerous than if it were off.”

What You Can Do?

You 2020 Mazda Mazda3 doesn’t need to have forward collision or steering problems for it to  be a lemon. A yardstick is to evaluate whether the problems are affecting your use of the car or its value. In any case, if you think that you may have a lemon, you are welcome to contact Lemberg Law via our Helpline. Alternatively, you can fill out a contact form. We will assess your problems and advise you — at no charge. The law makes Mazda pay legal fees, so you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones

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